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2004 Mazda Tribute V6 Install - Centre Console & Dash

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  • 2004 Mazda Tribute V6 Install - Centre Console & Dash

    So it was about time that I started pasting up some of the details of the car PC build!

    I wanted something that looked pretty stock, so no big out there mods, as well as something that could be turned back to normal if I went to sell the car. A few holes here and there inside the storage bin in the centre console, and noone would be the wiser if I sell this car

    So, the parts list:

    Intel D945GCLF2 Atom dual core motherboard
    2GB Geil RAM
    100GB 5400rpm 2.5" SATA notebook hard drive
    Opus 120W power supply
    Home made ATX connector cable (None available from mp3car store at the time)
    Lilliput 629 7" touchscreen (Older CCFL model, picked up second hand here in Australia)
    Generic USB GPS puck, NMEA signals
    ELM327 1.2a OBD/CAN scanner
    HQCT-i AM/FM radio module
    Generic Bluetooth module
    Logitec diNovo Mini keyboard/mouse combo
    Centrafuse 3.0 + Navigation (Australia maps)

    So, after having a poke around in the car, I had originally wanted to build everything into the dash, similar to how Blk02si has done in his setup. However, once I started pulling out the dash, there were just too many obstacles and other parts up inside the dash. What originally looked to be a huge space, was really just a big space with random difficultness in there that made fixing parts up inside just too hard. Couple that with the Western Australian heat (45 degree C summer days!), and realistically it was just too much to ask.

    So where to fit the motherboard and other parts? hmmm....I poked around under the seats, and found issues with that, as there is too much rubbish and dirt gets pushed up under the front seats to make for a good location.

    That only really left the centre console area, so I started pulling that apart.

    What do you know? MASSIVE amount of space!

    So, I decided to build everything down under there. There is enough of a gap to allow for clean air above the motherboard, so there shouldnt be heat buildup from the 25W that the motherboard outputs when being pushed to the limit. There is also a clear path for all my wiring up through the centre of the car up to behind the dash, so I can get the screen up into the dash where the radio used to be. I can also mount a USB hub, and the GPS and OBD units up inside the dash, so they will be up where they need to be.

    So, I have my spaces figured out, now its time to build up the parts on the bench, and get that side of things working.

    Built a tray to mount the motherboard and Opus 120W power supply, as well as the main hard drive for the unit. The L shape allows me to mount the motherboard behind the handbrake, and the power supply and hard drive up alongside the handbrake.

    From this point, it was time to start working on the niggling little things. I needed somewhere to be able to mount a network plug, as well as a couple of USB ports to allow easy access to both the home network, and thumbdrives or USB cd drives (Will get a slotload USB dvd drive down the track). I didn't want to mess up the dash, as I wanted it to look OEM. So, I figured I would cut myself some holes in the inside front of the storage bin of the car. Cut two rectangles, and one square hole, mounted two USB ports in the rectangles, and one Cat5a network port in the square. Pics to come once I start doing the install in that part of the car, as its all back together at the moment!

    I will also be mounting a couple of LED's for power and hard drive inside the storage bin, and also a set of switches up and inside there. Switches will be:

    Master power (Cutting in or out the permanent 12V)
    Ignition power (Between the ignition and the Opus 120W)
    Antenna power (Between the ignition and the antenna trigger for the motorised antenna)
    Reset switch for the motherboard

    At least doing it that way, I get a cool lighting effect in the storage bin (The switches that are running off the ignition will all be lit switches that I bought from mp3car store!), but it also gives me both a bit more manual control over the computer, and also I can choose to override the system if for instance I dont want the computer on when the car is running.

    For the screen, unfortunately I had some issues here. The guy who sold me the screen second hand also threw in a bybyte double din mount for it, but did mention that he thought it was the wrong one, as he had to mod it a bit to get it to work.

    What he didnt mention, was that it was completely the wrong one, and no modding would make it work. Yeesh.

    So, I emailed bybyte to see about getting a CCFL screen mount, as I could only see the LED ones. Reply back: Nope, dont make em anymore, just buy an LED mount. Sorry bybyte, you don't get a buck out of me for that kind of retarded answer. If you discontinue a part, then just say its discontinued. Don't tell me to just go buy a whole new screen because you can't be bothered holding stock of the older style mounts.

    So i was pondering how to do this, when I had a look at the original chassis that the monitor comes in.....Hang on, that looks like its about the right width right? Just a little tall to fit? I don't need those buttons......

    Out comes the hacksaw, and off with the buttons! Now, the chassis fits perfectly inside the Metra double din dash kit, and still gives me that OEMish look! Just need to sand down the Metra kit so it isn't quite so pronounced, give it a little filler between the metra kit and the LCD chassis, and a few coats of spraypaint! Happy as folks, happy as

    From this point....its now software.

    I went with Windows 7, and just couldnt quite get it tweaked as well as I could get an XP install. Things like startup and shutdown screens I just couldn't quite find a way to change as easily as I could in XP, so I ended up sticking with an n-lited Windows XP Pro install. And it runs like a champ! Even with the slowish hard drive, I still get up and into centrafuse within approx 40 seconds, which is about what I want from this unit. I will be only halfway down my road by the time the unit is up and going, and thats fine.

    Centrafuse runs everything I need, and does it well. I looked at RR, but sorry, theres too many files to change, and tweaking to do, and....well....I do enough of that in my day job, and the last thing I want to do is have to do it on an effectively embedded install.

    So, some pics!

    First up, the power supply I use for my testbed, and old but solid, 13.8V 6amp regulated DC power supply.

    A photo of the motherboard on its own, without the cables installed.

    The motherboard and Opus 120W on their L shaped MDF motherboard tray.

    Spaghetti junction!!!! The carPC as being worked on on the desk. HQCT-i in the front, cables from here to everywhere

    Lilliput screen, sans buttons!

    Back view, showing how close I had to cut it, but it comes up brilliantly! Still lets me use the little metal clips to hold the LCD panel into the dash piece, so I'm REALLY happy about this. Just need to pick up some good quality 3M double sided tape to hold the other circuit boards onto the back, and give it a coat of spraypaint, and its good

    Front view, you can see some slight gaps round the side, because I havent glued the LCD chassis into the Metra kit as yet, or started any filling, that will be left for a quiet weekend.

    And finally for now, a view of my diNovo Mini.....This thing is seriously perfect for a carPC! Well worth the investment I rekon. Sturdy enough to chuck into a glove box, but has everything I need in the one package!

  • #2
    Just a quick update, I have come back from my annual leave, and tonight, glued together the two parts of the LCD frame, so the lilliput fascia plate has just been glued inside the Metra dash plate.

    I had a chat to Nexson on the best way to fill all this in, and he had indicated that epoxy was the best bet for it being such a small gap.

    I have to fill this, as the bottom of the lilliput fascia actually bulges out as it gets to the buttons, and I just wasn't convinced of my sanding skills to flatten that bulge down, and make it a flat fit inside the metra unit.

    So what I have done, is left the bulge in the fascia, which changes the angle the mount sits on, as I have realised it will actually help line the screen up perfectly at face angle when it gets mounted into the dash!

    Sorry, no pics on this as yet though, I have used a pretty slow drying (30 hour cure time) 2 part epoxy to do the join, as it will give a good solid join, its thick enough to smooth into a good fill, and should come up nicely. Once I get it out of the clamps, I will grab a piccie and upload, before i start sanding, to prep for paint.


    • #3
      Ok, so the epoxy resin turned out to be useless for filling the didnt stick to the ABS plastic of the metra kit (Or the LCD bezel come to think of it!).

      The whole lot just fractured and came away from the plastic.

      So.....down to the auto parts store, asked the guy there what the best option was for filling the gap, and he said I was best off using glass reinforced filler.

      Picked up a can of K&H Kahglass (Unfortunately the brand names that are big in the US aren't really heard of here, so I couldnt get anything like Duraglass), as well as some of the primer and paint that I would need down the track, managed to find a plastic and vinyl paint, in a satin black, as I didn't want glossy, and didnt want to go complete matt colour.

      So, a picture of the dash kit after having applied the fibreglass filler:

      Yep, its fuzzy all right! Just waiting for it to cure now, then I can start sanding again. It will probably need a light coat of some more filler once I have this done, and I might have to go and pick up a non glass reinforced filler, as this stuff isn't really for fine work! The same company does have a light grade filler, which I might use, as I think using the same brand would ensure a good compatibility between the layers.

      But I will see how the sanding comes up before I cross that bridge, at least the auto parts store is just round the corner


      • #4
        Time for an update, the christmas break has given me a few hours to play around.

        I have gotten the amp for the car fitted underneath the passenger side seat, I picked up a Sony Xplod 4x70W RMS amp for that purpose, I don't want to drive anything more than a normal stereo volume, so I wasn't after massive amps. Still, I have the option down the track, the wiring was done with very heavy gauge wire. One issue with the car is that there are NO points on the firewall for running cable, so in the end I had to jam the 12V+ cable in beside the hood release cable, and that was one tight fit, not to mention it enters the cabin right next to the accelerator cable, so some good cable tying was required to make sure it isn't a hazard down the track.

        I finally finished the fibreglassing on the screen, and after a LOT of sanding, then filling, then sanding, then trimming by knife, then filling, then sanding, then priming, then sanding, you get the idea!!! I now have this:

        It has come up REALLY nicely, the pictures of it just don't do it justice, I am so pleased with the end result. The vinyl paint I have used gives the frame back the speckled look that the rest of the dash has, and this will fit in really nicely.

        A view as well with the LCD installed in the frame.

        I need to get some heavy duty double sided foam tape in order to fix the controller board for the LCD screen to the back of the LCD panel, then it will be ready for a trial fit into the dash.

        So now, I need to get a few things fixed, like auto login, and also some last little tweaks, like setting up the hard drive for sharing, so I can just plug it into the house network, and push files out to the drive in the car, rather than having to try and pull them off the network on such a small screen.

        I also need to start soldering up power wires to go from under the centre console up and into behind the screen. I picked up some red, black and yellow wire today, will start running up a loom tonight, but just need to make sure I haven't forgotten anything!

        I still need to pick up an ISO connector from the auto store down the road, but I need to wait until I remove my stereo, as I need to make sure I get the right ISO connector, and my car isn't shown in any of the parts books, but I know it's the same as some of the Ford units, so I just need to compare.

        Then also need to add some more switches to the centre console, as I need one to isolate the amp (So between the OPUS's amp remote wire and the amp), and also one to isolate the power antenna (Between the OPUS's amp remote wire and the antenna).

        Then I can start the final run of install, and I will make sure I get more pics!


        • #5
          Two updates in one!

          First update, I changed the 2.5" notebook drive for a Patriot Torqx 64Gb SSD, the upshot of which the computer now FLIES. What a massive improvement!!! Running windows 7, with the atom board, I get 20 second resumes from hibernation, which would be knocked down to around 15 seconds if Intel got a grip and released a decent, fast starting BIOS for the GCLF2.

          Second update, I have done some more work on getting the wiring done. So the dash started out looking like this:

          I had pulled the silver section of the dash, as well as the instrument cluster surround, as it is all one piece. The great thing about that, is it gives me a heap of space to work inside!

          The block of wood is there to give me something nice and sturdy for doing soldering work on, without the risk of melting something I shouldn't in the process.

          One problem I had, was that I could not find an aftermarket interface plug to fit my wiring harness, so I have had to resort to splicing into the loom. I had to do this, rather than cut off the plug, as I want to be able to return the car back to original condition if needed, or be able to at least plug the original stereo back in if I had to pull the computer for anything longer than a day or two. This works perfectly for that, and still gives me a decent interface into the car wiring loom for connecting up the computer.

          I'm pretty happy with the work so far! Over the next few nights after work I can knock up the power cables from the wiring harness down to the computer, and also the return audio cables from the amplifier under the passenger seat back up into the wiring loom. I am reusing the wiring loom for the audio, as I don't want to run new cables down to the doors, I have done that in a couple of other mazdas, and I know how much of a pain it is, plus I am not running high end speakers, so the slight loss from doing it this way wont be noticed.

          So, will give another update in a week(ish!). Thanks for reading so far


          • #6
            Nice work Chester, looks like it's coming along well. I love the idea of using the centre console area to mount the PC. Are you going to install a new speaker system or hookup the amp to the current installed ones?


            • #7
              The centre console has worked really well for this, as the space in underneath was otherwise wasted, and the temperature is pretty stable down there, it is protected from the sun heat by 3 layers of plastic, but it is open enough inside to not be a confined area.

              I have actually finished the install, aside from solving a couple of little teething issues (Grounding mostly, I have some engine noise in the audio), and it has come out well.

              Will have to get some pictures of it next time I pull the centre console apart, which will be soon!

              I am using the stock speakers for now, as they are still in good condition, and I don't want extreme sound levels, basically just wanted the original stereo volume. So I am running the amp back up and into the original speaker lines back near the stereo harness, just spliced into the lines.

              I will swap the speakers out down the track, just in order to get something with a slightly richer bass level, but other than that, I am pretty happy with how it has come along.


              • #8
                Yeah center console pics would be great. Could you also post finished pics?


                • #9
                  Yep, will be pulling apart the centre console again probably next weekend to try and sort out the grounding issue, will make sure I get pics of it then for you! Will grab a finished pic as well, although you can only see the screen in the dash, everything else is hidden


                  • #10
                    Ok, time for another update, this will be the last in the worklog for now, I don't think anything is going to change too much now, its pretty much finished

                    I was having nothing but trouble with the HQCT-i, the sound quality was bad, the reception was bad, the unit wouldn't come out of hibernation properly, all junk. I know that my antenna is 75ohm, and the HQCT-i is 50ohm...but my question is why offer a unit that is made for carPC's, and then make it with a 50ohm antenna connection? Someone please enlighten me....I have never seen a car with a 50ohm antenna. As such, you max out at 50% reception.

                    So, stumped up and bought a Directed HD radio, and one of mitchjs's cables. Oh....My....Freaking....God. I have HU quality radio again!!! I can't believe I put up with the HQCT when I could have had this right from the start!!!

                    So, after stumping up almost $300 Australian for the HQCT, I am now going to have to put it up on ebay and try to make some money back from that.

                    But suffice to say, the Directed radio rocks big time. It gives crystal clear sound into the line in port (The HQCT I had to run through the mic in port, then apply volume boost just to get it close to the sound levels from the other audio sources, which created a lot of static), and I just love it. Mitchjs is a god in my book

                    Also, for anyone in Australia, the Directed HD radio picks up the station info and track info that is part of the DAB+ audio feed. It won't obviously pick up the DAB+ audio, but it does at least get track info, which is displayed in Centrafuse. One more plus to this!

                    Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the HD radio and the OBD scanner inside the dash before I put the screen back in, so you will just have to imagine a couple of boxes inside the dash with double sided foam tape and zip ties holding them nice and secure

                    I did get some pics of the carputer install in between the front seats, so here we have a pic of the unit in place around the side of the handbrake:

                    And a full view of the mess in all its glory!

                    Here is a view of inside the centre console storage bin. You can see the two extra USB ports, and also the network port that I have included there. The dongle plugged in is the receiver for my Logitec DiNovo Mini keyboard. The red block up at the top is the reset button, and the three holes near that are where the switches for the main power, amp and antenna are, so that I can directly control those as needed. They are all blue lit switches, so when the car is running, the storage bin is lit up blue, which actually makes finding things inside there nice and easy! Don't need to turn on the cabin light anymore!

                    A view of the centre console unit that sits on top of the carputer, showing some of the cabling running up to the USB ports, network port and the like. The big round hole at the front I had just holesawed out to make an easier port to run the cables for the switches.

                    And finally a view of the switches and everything all wired up.

                    So now, I just have to work through a couple of bugs with Centrafuse, as well as one annoying power up bug, where if I shut down the system by turning off the ignition, I cant turn it back on within about 5 minutes, or the system powers up for 2 seconds, then cuts out.

                    But otherwise, I am really happy with this install. The system beats a HU hands down for add on extras, the sound output is crisp and clear, and on a par with a HU, and even the wife can use it, which means I go on living for another week!!!